Re-Dwarf: Terrorform

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Red Dwarf V has some great comedy and some great sci-fi – sometimes both in the same episode. Terrorform, though, doesn’t really deliver.

It’s a half-decent concept – Rimmer and Kryten crash land on a psi-moon which then proceeds to mould itself around Rimmer’s mind – and there are a few amusing lines in there along the way (mainly, of course, at Rimmer’s expense) but for me the whole thing plays out as more of a fantasy tale than a sci-fi one. But then again, if that kind of science-light approach to sci-fi works for Doctor Who, why not for Red Dwarf?

So putting that objection aside… well, I still didn’t like it that much. Krytens system messages in the opening scenes are quite fun – words like ‘magenta’ and ‘taupe’ have probably not been used to such good effect before or since – but after that it was missing something, at least for my taste. Or maybe it just doesn’t stand up well alongside the rest of the series.

Anyway… Due to an inadequately explained but convenient side effect of the psi-moon, Rimmer has a physical presence on the moon – as do various aspects of his personality. Most of the good aspects, however, exist only in a graveyard, having been slain early in life by the dominant inner demon: self-loathing. An it is this monster of self-loathing that wants to kepp Rimmer in prison and do unspeakable unpleasantness to him, and from which the boys much rescue Rimmer and escape.

Annoyingly, Starbug has got stuck in the undergrowth near the Swamp of Despair (which sounds like something out of Pilgrim’s Progress), and the only way they can get enough lift to escape is my some completely over the top male bonding and getting into ‘kind of a four-way hug situation’in order to make Rimmer feel better about himself, thus weakening self-loathing monster’s grip. And then all his good traits rise from the grave dressed as the Lilac Musketeers and save the day, which is all rather silly really.

Come quickly, I think I’ve found a metaphor!

In defence of the story, it is an interesting and sometimes fun way of exploring the psyche of one of the characters, and in particular the very personal hell he creates for himself. I haven’t had time to compare Rimmer’s psi-moon to any kind of Biblical representation of Hell, but I think being left alone with nothing but your worst character traits for (presumably) a near infinite period of time would draw parallels somewhere. Even if not it could be quite an interesting compare & contrast (if you happen to be interested in that sort of thing, anyway).

There’s certainly a parallel to be drawn from the idea that all Rimmer needed to do in order to escape this version of hell was to believe that somebody loved him.

And I think that is a suitably positive note on which to close for now – but please, if anyone has thoughts on how the psi-moon compares to Hell (or anything else about the episode), do leave a comment!


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